The Electronic Intifada recently reported “‘Tel Aviv beach’ in Paris sparks outrage a year after Gaza slaughter”:
Palestine solidarity activists in France are expressing outrage that a “Tel Aviv beach” is being created in Paris to promote Israel.
For a few hours on 13 August, a section of river bank in the French capital near the Pont d’Arcole, will be turned into “Tel Aviv sur Seine” (Tel Aviv on the Seine), complete with falafel stands and “Israeli nightlife.”
According to Coolisraël, a website that markets Israel to a French-speaking audience, the propaganda event is a joint project of the Paris and Tel Aviv municipal governments.
[…] The city’s response, a copy of which was seen by The Electronic Intifada, states: “This festive day, open to all, underscores the strong cultural and high-tech ties between Paris and [Tel Aviv].”[…]
It adds – in a form of balancing rejected by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel – that Paris plans to pursue “partnerships with Bethlehem,” in the occupied West Bank, “in the field of water management.”
BDS France, a national coalition that supports the Palestinian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, has denounced Tel Aviv sur Seine.
“One year after Israel’s ‘Operation Protective Edge’ in Gaza, less than one month after the Israeli parliament voted to authorize the force-feeding of prisoners, one week after the latest colonial violence burned alive the members of the Dawabsha family in Duma in the occupied West Bank killing 18-month old baby Ali, the incursion of Tel Aviv onto Paris Plage is a real provocation,” BDS France said in a statement.
“Tel Aviv is not a city like others,” BDS France added, “it is built on top of the ruins of seven Palestinian villages.”
BDS France called on the public to email Paris City Hall and to leave comments on Mayor [Anne] Hidalgo’s Facebook page.
. . .
#TelAvivSurSeine has been met with a hashtag backlash in #ApartheidSurSeine. It is not clear who is winning the Twitter war of information, as both hashtags are being used in roughly equal measure, although many tweeting #TelAvivSurSeine do so to tweet their opposition to the planned event. The Palestinian solidarity group Plateforme Palestine tweeted:
Some opponents are posting photos of devastation in Gaza next to the official promotion photos of #TelAvivSurSeine:
Many created YouTube videos contrasting Gaza’s beaches under attack with the idyllic image promoted by #TelAvivSurSeine:
In recent years, Israel has opted for a Brand Israel campaign highlighting the nation’s cultural and entertainment side in an effort to derail attention from the nearly fifty-year-long occupation of the Palestinian territories. Rather than recognize it has an image problem because it has an actual image, the Israeli leadership has chosen a PR approach over a policy reappraisal. In any case, the Israeli government is convinced it is not at fault for the conflict and opposition to a Palestinian state is so solidly anchored among the Israeli right wing that the current coalition government would probably prefer international isolation than placating foreign critics.
So if you’re unwilling to accept a Palestinian state—the source of grievance for critics of Israel—and if you’re also convinced that the seemingly interminable occupation is really irrelevant (i.e., critics are implacable anti-Semites just picking on Israel, no matter what it does), then why not throw a beach party?
Detractors have labeled such efforts #Pinkwashing (promoting Israel as a gay tourist destination), #Greenwashing (promoting Israel as environmentally friendly) or the old-fashioned #Whitewashing.
This new #Beachwashing may backfire as critics of Israeli occupation have seized the attention to relate their own criticisms of the country-at-large, whose political reality, they argue, is incongruous with the liberal and secular bubble of Tel Aviv.
In the last Israeli election, the Likud party – which heads the current right-wing ruling coalition – came a distant second to the center-left Zionist Union among voters in Tel Aviv. Nonetheless, Likud won eight of the ten largest cities in Israel and cobbled together a coalition with parties further to the right, which fared even worse in Tel Aviv. Israel’s right-wing and far-right parties appear to be keen to promote Tel Aviv’s convivial culture abroad while disdaining it at home. The nationalist-religious right that dominates Israeli politics and increasingly the nation’s culture are gradually remodeling the country in their own image, challenging the old Labor Zionist establishment (such as the recent effort to undermine the independence of the High Court), and foreclosing the possibility of a peace agreement with the Palestinians, a peace that would usher in the normalcy desired by many in Tel Aviv.
Instead of being reflective of Israel as a whole, marking campaigns centered around Tel Aviv—the very residual liberalism in Israel that the current government is at odds with and would rather see banished—serve to cloak an illiberal country with a veneer of liberalism that is an Israeli exception rather than the norm. It’s as if the Israeli right is telling its liberal counterparts: “We do not want liberalism here, but Tel Avivis will always have Paris.”
On opening day, organizers may have unwittingly reminded guests of the other Israel, the one with checkpoints for Arabs:
Many who turned out for #TelAvivSurSeine were greeted by protesters, some of whom were forcibly removed by police:
While French police removed Palestine solidarity activists, the police force apparently coordinated with the far-right and racist organization Ligue de Défense Juive—the French offshoot of the Jewish Defense League founded by the late American Rabbi Meir Kahane. The Israeli branch of the JDL was banned by the Knesset and a similar fate may await the French branch, as reported by the Electronic Intifada:
French police allowed members of the extremist Ligue de Défense Juive, including its founder Jean-Claude Nataf, to coordinate and direct security with them.
The national daily Libération reported that LDJ members moved around freely inside the “Tel Aviv beach” enclosure carrying walkie-talkies or wearing ear pieces.
The newspaper said that some of the LDJ members “went as far as following journalists and listening in to their conversations.” Nataf was “at the entrance, regularly speaking with the police.”
According to the news website Les InRocks police were allowing certain people to pass through the security checkpoint without being searched whenever Nataf vouched for them.
Asked by Libération whether LDJ’s presence was a problem, Paris City Hall said the event was “open to everyone. As long as they don’t hold a demonstration or hand out flyers, they have the right to be there.”
Last year, senior police sources told Libération that the interior ministry was considering banning LDJ under laws that prohibit “provocation of discrimination, hatred or violence for ethnic or religious motives” and that ban “private militias.”
Lastly, France24 reviewed the local press coverage of the event: